Help in Times of Trauma

Helping Others


When speaking with people who have been affected by trauma, provide a patient and supportive ear, allow them to speak freely, but also be aware that talking can sometimes lead to escalation of intense feelings.  Beyond that point talking may not be helpful and it may be time to help them focus on basic necessities and the next step or two they need to take to improve their situation.  One useful question is "what one thing can you do today that will move you in the direction you want to go?"  If feelings continue to escalate to the point where thinking is distorted or panic emerges, contact a Counseling Center counselor.  The Counseling Center can provide staff members at your location if we need to meet with UA students or student groups in other locations.

Members of the UA community also need to be aware of the signs of traumatic stress in people who witnessed events like the April 27, 2011 tornado and its aftermath, as well as those who were concerned for people who were directly involved in such events, and as a result were frightened for their safety.  This includes anyone who served as a first responder at the scenes of any damage.

Signs of Traumatic Stress


Intrusive Symptoms:

  • -Persistent re-experiencing of the event in images, thoughts, recollections, daydreams, and nightmares
  • -Acting and feeling as if re-living the event
  • -Distress in the presence of symbolic reminders

Avoidance Symptoms:

  • -Avoiding places and thoughts symbolic of the trauma
  • -Problems in recalling the event
  • -Loss of interest in important activities
  • -Restricted emotions
  • -Sense of foreshortened future

Arousal Symptoms:

  • -Hypervigilance
  • -Exaggerated startle response
  • -Sleep disturbance
  • -Difficulty concentrating
  • -Irritability or angry outbursts

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

In the hours and days after such an event many will feel numbness and shock, but this can be followed by the emergence of PTSD weeks and even months later.  Possible indications of PTSD are listed below.  Of primary importance is seeking assistance as soon as possible because PTSD can be mitigated and more severe forms prevented altogether.  The word "disorder" sometimes strikes people the wrong way; actually PTSD is a normal reaction to very abnormal events.

The Counseling Center remains available to students affected in this and other ways.  Even those who have left the Tuscaloosa area are encouraged to contact us at (205) 348-3863 should they need help and are not sure what to do.